Are Our Critics Honest?
“Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God.”
About a year before he was caught visiting a prostitute, Rev. Jimmy Swaggart went on national satellite television, weekend after weekend, attacking Dominion Theology. He said it is heretical. When Gary North journeyed to Baton Rouge to meet with Rev. Swaggart personally in the fall of 1986, to discuss the matter with him, Rev. Swaggart admitted that his information had come from Dave Hunt. He agreed to read at least some Christian Reconstruction literature before going on the attack again, and his attacks ceased. When he recognized that he did not have documented proof for his accusations, he stopped his public attacks. In this case, Jimmy Swaggart turned out to be more honest than Dave Hunt, who keeps misrepresenting us.
A few months before he left Lutheranism to join the Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Richard John Neuhaus described Christian Reconstruction as “an aberration of historic Christianity.” What did Neuhaus find so aberrational? A hundred years ago, few people would have protested Reconstructionist distinctives. The theological climate has changed, however. (So, for that matter, has Neuhaus since he wrote his attack.)
Yet the attacks continue. Reconstructionism is called deviant, heretical, and so forth by its critics. Not merely wrong-headed, excessive, exaggerated, or even historically unprecedented, but heretical. This is strong language, far stronger than Reconstructionists use against their opponents. Yet it is the Reconstructionists who are called divisive and hostile. Why? More to the point, which doctrine of the Reconstructionists is heretical?
If the only position taken by the Reconstructionists that is unprecedented in church history is Van Til’s assertion of the absolute authority of the Bible over all philosophy – biblical presuppositionalism – why do so few of the critics attack us at the one point where we are vulnerable to the accusation of new theology? Probably because more and more of them are coming to agree with us on this point: the myth of humanist neutrality.
Van Til was a Calvinist. He defended his position in terms of Calvinism. He said that Calvinism, with its doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God, is the only Christian position that can systematically and consistently reject all compromises with humanism, for Calvinism alone grants no degree of autonomy to man, including intellectual autonomy. So, the critics have a problem: if they accept biblical presuppositionalism without accepting Calvinism, they have an obligation to show how this is intellectually legitimate. They have to refute Van Til. On the other hand, if they do not do this, yet they also remain convinced that neutrality is a myth, they have to ask themselves: In what way is Christian Reconstruction heretical?
Reconstructionists are Calvinists, i.e., defenders of the doctrine of predestination by God. This is certainly no aberration of historic Christianity. Many of the greatest ministers and theologians of the Christian church have been Calvinists. Many of the greatest ministers and theologians of our own day are Calvinists. Consider the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great nineteenth-century Baptist “Prince of Preachers”:
It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, which are called by the nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. Were I a Pelagian, or a believer in the doctrine of free-will, I should have to walk for centuries all alone. Here and there a heretic or no very honourable character might rise up and call me brother. But taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren – I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own church.
The doctrine now known to us as “Calvinism” was set forth very plainly in the writings of Augustine (354-430). It held sway over the church for centuries until the church finally plummeted into apostasy, specifically because of the theological chain reaction set off by its rejection of Calvinism. Martin Luther (an Augustinian monk) and John Calvin revived the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and the particular biblical doctrine known as predestination. Luther with his Bondage of the Will (1525), and Calvin, with his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536) and his nearly complete commentaries on the Bible, gave the doctrine its fullest expression.
These men were not alone in their belief and application of this life-transforming doctrine. As Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries (and the developer of Evangelism Explosion) has said, this doctrine was held also by Melanchthon, by Zwingli, by John Knox, and by Thomas Cranmer in England. Without exception, all of the Reformers of the Protestant Reformation professed the doctrine of predestination by God. “All Protestant churches which came into being out of the Reformation hold to that doctrine in their creeds. The Presbyterians and the Reformed of Holland and Switzerland and Germany, Anglicans, the Huguenots, the Covenanters, the Puritans, the Pietists of Germany, the Pilgrims of America, were all firm believers in this great doctrine of predestination.”
It is no accident that it has been Calvinists who have developed a comprehensive social theory that places all men and institutions, including civil government, under the sovereign rule of God. Authority to rule is ministerial, derived from God and also limited by Him. The State’s right to exist is not based on the “will of the people” but on the will of God (Romans 13:1-4). The Calvinist believes that
the ultimate source of authority is not the state itself, as in Hegel and contemporary absolutist philosophers; nor in the people, as in modern democratic thought; nor in a classless society, as Marx taught; but in the will of the triune God. It is God who ordains the state, confers upon it its legitimate powers, and sets limits upon its actions. The state is not the source of law, nor of the concepts of right and wrong, or of justice and equity.
Calvinistic social theory had its greatest impact on the Western world: A limited State and a free people bound by the sovereign rule of God. Arminianism now predominates in the church. This too has social and political implications. If man is sovereign in salvation, which Arminianism implies, since God cannot save until man exercises his will, then man is equally sovereign in the social and political spheres. To throw off Calvinism is to open the door to apostasy and tyranny. There is no theological aberration in Christian Reconstruction’s adherence to Calvinism.
Reconstructionists believe that the whole Bible is the Christian’s guide for every area of life: from personal holiness to civil righteousness. This includes God’s law as it is found in all the Bible, not just “Old Testament Law” or the “Law of Moses.”
To orthodox Calvinism, the law of God is the permanent, unchanging expression of God’s eternal and unchangeable holiness and justice…. God could not change this law, or set it aside, in His dealings with men, without denying Himself. When man sins, therefore, it is not God’s nature to save him at the law’s expense. Instead, He saves sinners by satisfying the law on their behalf.
The Bible teaches that Jesus satisfied the requirements of the law in the sinner’s place and only brought about a change in those laws that had specific reference to the redemptive work of Christ and those institutions and ceremonies that were specifically designed to keep Israel a separate people and nation (e.g., circumcision and food laws). The law as a blueprint for personal, familial, ecclesiastical, and civil righteousness was not abrogated by the work of Christ. This is the Calvinistic tradition that goes against Neuhaus’s claim that the views of Reconstructionists are “an aberration of historic Christianity.”
Few Christians would deny that the “moral law,” as summarized in the Ten Commandments, is still binding upon the believer. But a question arises: How comprehensive is the moral law? “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) is a moral law that has personal as well as social and civil applications. An individual (personal application) is forbidden to murder another person (social application), and the State has a duty to punish those who commit murder (civil application) (Romans 13:4). The same can be said about laws governing property, contracts, and criminal sexual practices like adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. All of the laws governing these areas are moral laws having a tripartite application.
Since our task in this section is to deal with “historic Christianity,” we will not survey what the Bible says about the abiding validity of God’s law. This topic has been dealt with elsewhere in great detail.
A steady confirmation of the abiding validity of God’s law can be found with the earliest of the church fathers and continuing to our day. “Recognizing the value of the Law of God was no innovation by the Reformers. Irenaeus [c.175-c.195] had seen it; Augustine [354-430] knew it well; the medieval schoolmen, of whom Aquinas [1224-1274] was the best exponent, considered at length the application of the Law to the Christian.”
John Calvin’s (1509-1564) exposition of the law and its application to society, including the civil magistrate, is set forth in comprehensive detail in his exposition of Deuteronomy 27 and 28, totalling two hundred sermons in all.
After all, in reforming the city of Geneva, Calvin did not deliver two hundred lectures on common grace or natural law, but preached two hundred sermons on the book of Deuteronomy. He made full and direct applications from Deuteronomy into his modern situation, without apology. He viewed Biblical law as foundational and as the starting point for legal and socio-political reflection.
The American Puritans, following in the tradition of Calvin, believed that it was possible to govern a modern commonwealth by the laws set forth in all of Scripture. For example, the “Puritans resolved to rule the [Massachusetts] Bay Colony with a strong hand but with a Christian heart.” This meant that the Bible was used as the standard for personal, social, and civil justice, “but no Puritan believed that the entire Mosaic Code should be transposed bodily to the new Canaan.” If While the Bible became the New Englanders’ law book, much of English Common Law was rejected. “Burglary, robbery, larceny, and many other crimes against the person and property did not appear at all as death-penalty crimes in” the early Massachusetts Body of Liberties. Why was the death penalty rejected for these crimes? The Bible did not mandate it.
These are not isolated historical cases advocating the binding nature of God’s law. Martin Bucer, a contemporary of Calvin, in his De Regno Christi, wrote that “no one can describe an approach more equitable and wholesome to the commonwealth than that which God describes in his law.” He further states that it is “the duty of all kings and princes who recognize that God has put them over his people that they follow most studiously his own method of punishing evildoers.” Similar sentiments can be found in the writings of Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), Bishop John Hooper (d. 1555), Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), Thomas Becon (1512-1567), John Knox (c. 1514-1572), Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603), William Perkins (1558-1602), Johannes Wollebius (1586-1629), George Gillespie (1613-1649), John Owen (1616-1683), John Cotton (1584-1652), Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) Thomas Shepard (1605-1649), john Eliot (1604-1690), Samuel Willard (1640-1707), Thomas Scott (1747-1821), E. C. Wines, Ashbel Green, j. B. Shearer, and many others.
- H. Kellogg wrote the following in the introduction to his exposition of Leviticus:
It comes that the book is of use for today, as suggesting principles which should guide human legislators who would rule according to the mind of God…. For nothing can be more certain than this; that if God has indeed once stood to a commonwealth in the relation of King and political head, we shall be sure to discover in His theocratic law upon what principles, infinite righteousness, wisdom, and goodness would deal with these matters. We shall thus find in Leviticus that the law which it contains, from beginning to end, stands in contradiction to the modern democratic secularism, which would exclude religion from government and order all national affairs without reference to the being and government of God….
History is with the Reconstructionists as they advocate a return to God’s law as the standard for righteous living, for the individual in self-government as well as elected officials in civil government. Our critics ignore most of this evidence. Why?
Reconstructionists believe in the advance of God’s kingdom (i.e., civilization) and the progressive defeat of Satan’s kingdom prior to Jesus’ bodily return in glory. This view of eschatology has been called postmillennialism, because Jesus returns after (post) a great period of gospel prosperity and blessedness. Again, since Mr. Neuhaus has alleged that Christian Reconstruction is “an aberration of historic Christianity,” we will only be considering the witness of history. There are numerous biblical defenses of postmillennialism available to the reader.
Millennial positions were not so clearly defined prior to and for an extended period after the Reformation of the sixteenth century as they are today. Christians did not describe themselves as pre-, a-, or post-millennialists. While a premillennialist is easy to spot because the system’s characteristic is the one-thousand-year reign of Christ, bodily, on the earth, finding amillennialists and postmillennialists is a bit more difficult, since they teach a present reign of Christ who sits on His throne in heaven. Many amils and postmils can be spotted because of their opposition to “chiliasm,” an ancient designation for premillennialism and its insistence on an earthly political kingdom (cf. John 6:15).
While it is true that premillennialism (or “chiliasm”) has a long history, postmillennialism (or the idea that the gospel will have worldwide success before the return of Christ) has also had many adherents. In a homily on Matthew, John of Antioch, called Chrysostom (347-407), wrote:
Let us show forth then a new kind of life. Let us make earth, heaven; let us hereby show the Greeks, of how great blessings they are deprived. For when they behold in us good conversation, they will look upon the very face of the kingdom of heaven.
What effect will gospel proclamation have on the world? Did these early Christian writers expect the demise of culture (some did), to be overrun by pagan hordes? It was “Chrysostom’s conviction that, when the outside world sees this Christian life burgeoning in a fashion that is gentle, unenvious, and socially responsible in every degree, the outer society will, itself, be mightily impressed.” With such actions and attitudes, Chrysostom believed that it was possible to win “their native land!” This is the essence of the postmillennial vision.
Thus they too will be reformed, and the word of godliness “will have free course,” not less than in the apostles’ time. For if they, being twelve, converted entire cities and countries; were we all to become teachers by our careful conduct, imagine how high our cause will be exalted.
These same sentiments can be found throughout the entire history of the Christian church. The prospects for the advance of Christ’s kingdom were paramount in the writings of many of the greatest thinkers of the church. Again we turn to the sixteenth-century protestant theologian John Calvin. J. A. De Jong in his doctoral dissertation on millennial expectations after 1640 writes of Calvin: “John Calvin’s commentaries give some scholars cause for concluding that he anticipated the spread of the gospel and true religion to the ends of the earth.” John 1: McNeill mentions “Calvin’s conception of the victory and future universality of Christ’s Kingdom throughout the human race, a topic frequently introduced in the Commentaries.”
It is generally stated that postmillennialism came into prominence through the writings of the Anglican commentator Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), but prior to the publication of Whitby’s widely read Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament in 1703, this outlook was being articulated by Puritan scholars such as Thomas Brightman, William Gouge, John Cotton, and John Owen. On October 24, 1651, Owen preached a sermon before the House of Commons on the theme of “The Kingdom of Christ” in which his postmillenarian outlook is quite evident. That God in his appointed time would “bring forth the Kingdom of the Lord Christ unto more glory and power than in former days, I presume you are persuaded”, he stated to the assembly. He believed that the Scriptures foretold a time in history of “multitudes of converts, many persons, yea nations, Isa[iah] 60:7.8, 66:8, 49:18-22; Rev[elation] 7:9,” and “professed subjection of the nations throughout the whole world unto the Lord Christ, Dan[iel] 2:44, 7:26, 27, Isa[iah] 60:6-9.”
Similar themes were addressed by Zwingli, Bucer, Peter Martyr, William Perkins, J. A. Alexander, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, Benjamin B. Warfield, Marcellus Kik, Roderick Campbell, John Murray (in his commentary on Romans, chapter 11), and Reconstructionist writers. Strains of postmillennialism can be found in the writings of the great English Baptist preacher of the nineteenth century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and many others. Charles Hodge, whose three-volume systematic theology is still used in seminaries today, considered postmillennialism the “common doctrine of the Church.” In 1859 the influential theological quarterly, the American Theological Review, could assert without fear of contradiction that postmillennialism was the ‘commonly received doctrine’ among American Protestants.” Our critics ignore most of this evidence. Why?
No One Likes Being Called a Heretic
In 1972 Dave Hunt wrote Confessions of a Heretic. It is a moving story of how his long-term association with the anti-pentecostal Plymouth Brethren movement was finally broken with the charge of heresy and eventual excommunication because of his new-found pentecostal experiences. There are a number of parallels between what Dave Hunt experienced among the Brethren and the way that he and others have been treating Christian Reconstructionists. Just substitute Reconstructionist where you read Pentecostal or gifts of the Spirit in the following quotations.
I grieved a long time that night in the dark of the living room – not for myself, but for my friends, and the frustration I felt at the misunderstanding that had come between us. No explanation I could make would satisfy them now that they had convinced themselves that I was a Pentecostal.
I know something of the prejudice that surrounds this subject of the gifts of the Spirit, having denounced Pentecostals all my life purely on the basis of hearsay that I have only recently discovered was mostly false. I don’t ask that you agree with me, nor do I see that [another Christian] should demand that I agree with him on every point of doctrine or be put out of the assembly. This is not the basis for our fellowship in Christ.
In addition, there are numerous places in Confessions of a Heretic where Dave Hunt sounds like – dare I say it? – a Reconstructionist! He decried the modern conception of “the separation of church and state.” He believed that Jesus should reign in every area of life, including the political realm.
Thus the way had been paved for Satan’s coup d’etat – “the separation of church and state.” This seemingly reasonable arrangement between political and religious institutions had effectively barred Christ from the very places that need him most, where he should and must reign. Christianity had become a game played off to the side a few hours each week, in or on certain designated tax-exempt properties remote from real or ordinary life, unrelated to everything vital in the affairs of men.
That which had been intended by Christ to pervade every pulse-beat of life is now sealed off in a tiny sector of society that we know as organized religion. Institutionalized Christianity is allowed to put in a brief appearance outside these narrow confines on certain specified occasions – an “invocation” here and a “benediction” there – but must be careful even at such times not to overstep its limited license. There must be no significant intrusion of “religion” into real life – affairs of state, education, social action, pleasure.
Dave Hunt should recall some of the experiences he encountered in his dealings with the Plymouth Brethren movement so he can understand how others feel when they too are unjustly treated. In addition, he might want to explain why his earlier works sound suspiciously like present-day Reconstructionist writings.
There is a tendency among heresy hunters to look for the most controversial doctrines of a theological system and then to evaluate the entire system solely in terms of the controversial doctrines. If you are a die-hard dispensationalist, then postmillennialism is going to look aberrational to you. As has been shown, however, many fine Christians have held to a postmillennial eschatology. The same can be said for the Reconstructionist’s adherence to Calvin’s doctrine of salvation and his view of the law. Of course, this does not make the positions orthodox, but it ought to make people think twice about condemning a group of believers because they hold an opposing doctrinal position that has biblical and historical support. The three doctrines listed above – Calvinistic soteriology, biblical ethics, and postmillennial eschatology – are set forth in masterful detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, documents that have been subscribed to by millions of Christians worldwide for nearly 350 years. Until at least these documents are wrestled with, would-be heresy hunters would do well to choose another line of work. Until they do, however, we Reconstructionists are compelled to defend ourselves. The question then is: How? This is discussed in Chapter 13 by Gary North.
 Richard John Neuhaus, “Why Wait for the Kingdom?: The Theonomist Temptation,” First Things, No.3 (May 1990), p. 20.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit: Containing Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon Minister of the Chapel During the Years 1855-1860, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, [1856-1861] 1963), Vol. I, p. 313.
 Benjamin B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (Philadelphia: Presbyterian &c Reformed, [1905-9] 1956).
 Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell,  1957.
 D. James Kennedy, 1tuths that Transform: Christian Doctrines for Your Life Today, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1974), p. 31.
 C. Gregg Singer, John Calvin: His Roots and Fruits (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977), pp. 33-34.
 The revivals of the early nineteenth century brought about a “Popular theology [that] had descended from Calvinism to Arminianism, and from there to universalism, and so on down the ladder of error to the pits of atheism.” John B. Boles, The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1972), p. 100.
 Mervyn Davies, Foundation of American Freedom: Calvinism in the Development of Democratic Thought and Action (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1955).
 J. I. Packer, “The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter” (1954), pp. 303-5. Quoted in Ernest F. Kevan, The Grace of Law: A Study in
Puritan Theology (London: The Carey Kingsgate Press limited, 1964). pp. 67-68.
 See “Books for Further Reading and Study,” below.
 Geoffrey H. Greenhough, “The Reformers’ Attitude to the Law of God,” The Westminster Theological Journal 39:1 (Fall 1976), p. 81.
 James B. Jordan, “Editor’s Introduction,” The Covenant Enforced: Sermons on Deuteronomy 27 and 28 (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), p. xxxiii.
 Edwin Powers, Grime and Punishment in Early Massachusetts, 1620-1692 (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1966), p. 252.
 Ibid., p. 253. This, too, is the Reconstructionist position: “There are cultural
discontinuities between biblical moral instruction and our modern society. This fact does not imply that the ethical teaching of Scripture is invalidated for us; it simply calls for hermeneutical sensitivity.” Bahnsen, “The Reconstructionist Option,” in Bahnsen and Gentry, House Divided, p. 32.
 Ibid., p. 254.
 Martin Bucer, De Regio Christi, trans. Wilhelm Pauck and Paul Larkin, 00. Wilhelm Pauck, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. XIX Melanchthon and Bucer (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1969), p. 378.
 Samuel Rutherford, Lex, Rex, or The Law and The Prince (Harrisonburg, VA:. Sprinkle Publications,  1980).
 E. C. Wines, “The Hebrew Theocracy,” The Biblical Repository (October 1850), pp. 579-99.
 Ashbel Green, Obedience to 1M Laws of God 1M Sure and Indispensable Defence of Nations (Philadelphia, PA: John Ormrod, 1798).
 J. B. Shearer, Hebrew Institutions, Social and Civil (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian
Committee of Publications, 1910).
 For a summary of the views of these men, see James B. Jordan, “Calvinism and
‘The Judicial Law of Moses’: An Historical Survey,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Symposium on Puritanism and Law, ed. Gary North V:2 (Winter 1978-79), pp. 17-48.
 S. H. Kellogg, The Book of Leviticus, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock,  1978), pp. 25-26.
 See “Books for Further Reading and Study,” below.
 “Chiliasm” is derived from the Greek chiliad, signifying a thousand. “Millennialism” is derived from the Latin mille, also signifying a thousand. Millennium is made up of two Latin words: mille (thousand) and annum (year). A millennium is a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
 Homily XLIII, 7 (Commentary on Matthew XII:38-39). Quoted in Ray C. Petry,
Christian Eschatology and Social Thought: A Historical Essay on the Social Implications of Some Neglected Aspects in Christian Eschatology to A.D. 150 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1956), p.l00.
 Petry, Christian Eschatology and Social Thought, p. 100.
 J. A DeJong, As the Waters Cover the Sea: Millennial Expectations and the Rise of Anglo-American Missions: 1640-1810 (Kampen, The Netherlands: J. H. Kok, 1970), p. 8.
 Calvin: Institutes of The Christian Religion, ed. John 1: McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis
Battles, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960), vol. 2, p. 904, n. 76.
 Davis, Postmillennialism Reconsidered, p. 17.
 Iain Murray, “C. H. Spurgeon’s Views on Prophecy,” in The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), pp. 256-65.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Symposium on the Millennium 111:2 (Winter 1976-77), pp. 48-105. For an equally informative article, see James B. Jordan, “A Survey of Southern Presbyterian Millennial Views before 1930,” ibid., pp. 106-21.
 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, [1872-
73] 1968), vol. 3, p. 861.
 Davis, Postmillennialism Reconsidered, p. 19.
 Dave Hunt, Confessions of a Heretic (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1972).
 Ibid., p. 169.
 Ibid., p. 191.